Kona Coffee Roasting

Roasting the Kona coffee bean in different ways varies the taste of the coffee.

  1. What is coffee roasting?
  2. What is the difference between light and dark roasts?
  3. What is a light roast?
  4. What is a Full Roast?
  5. What is a Dark Roast?
  6. Describe the roasting process.
  7. What are some factors considered by the roasting master?
  8. How many pounds of cherry does it take to make one pound of roasted Kona coffee?


Coffee roasting is simply cooking the coffee beans, usually for a length of time from about 12 to 30 minutes, to achieve the desired taste.  Coffee roasting requires both skill and quality equipment, and when the coffee beans are roasted they expand in size yet lose moisture, and soluble oils develop.

Lighter roasts retain more of the natural flavor that is produced by the soil and climate of the region where the coffee was grown, as well as the particular variety of the coffee plant (e.g., Coffea Arabica).  In dark roasts these “origin flavors” are eclipsed by the roasting process itself, and the roast flavor will likely be the dominant taste and will mask the natural flavor of the coffee beans.


Darker roasts are produced by creating higher temperatures during the coffee roasting process, and also lengthening the coffee roasting time.

“I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee.” - Carly Simon


Light Roasts (also called Cinnamon or New England Roasts) are roasted only until the “first crack,” (or “crackle”), when the beans pop or crack as they visibly expand in size.  This may occur after only several minutes of roasting.  Light roasts have higher acidity, while medium roasts are generally sweeter and with more body, and thus have more balanced acidity and aroma.


A Full Roast (also called Viennese or Italian Espresso Roast) is roasted several minutes longer than a light roast, until the beans begin popping again (this is known as the “second crack”).  The gourmet Kona coffee beans may be slightly shiny at this time as oils begin to rise to the surface.  The flavor of full roasts may be spicy and with a heavier body, and the roast flavor is evident.


In a Dark Roast (also called Double or French Roast), the Kona coffee beans are roasted a few more minutes and then they begin to smoke.  At this time the bean sugars begin to carbonize, and the beans appear very oily.  The taste is smoky-sweet and the body is light yet intense with the roast flavor completely dominating the beans origin flavors.


A typical roasting machine is heated with propane gas and has an electrically-driven drum.  Twenty-five pounds of green beans take about fifteen minutes to roast.  The exact time varies depending upon several factors including the grade, quality, and moisture content of the beans.  Other factors include the weather conditions at the time of roasting, and also what type of roast is desired by the roasting master (e.g., light, medium, or dark roast).


The time in the roaster and the temperature of the roaster are the primary factors that the roasting master must consider during the roasting process.  More subtle considerations include the smell and appearance of the Kona coffee beans during roasting, and also the distinct popping sounds the gourmet beans make at certain stages of the roasting process.


About eight pounds (seven to nine pounds) of cherry make one pound of roasted Kona coffee.  Thus, one hundred pounds of Kona coffee cherry yields about twelve pounds of roasted gourmet Kona coffee.

Next: Storing the Coffee Beans

Enter a Journey Into the World of Specialty Coffee!

For excellent coffee knowledge see All About Coffee to learn about coffee harvesting as well as processing, grading, roasting, and grinding. Also covered is packaging, storing and brewing as well as the coffee beverage itself.

Comments on this entry are closed.